Microsoft-owned firm to connect scientists, explorers and artists directly to classrooms around the world
Skype announced eight new educational projects this morning as part of its “Skype In The Classroom” programme, to be run by organisations including NASA, British Council and Woodland Trust.
The projects will add to the 2,000 live Skype classes being run by an army of more than 38,000 teachers across 200 countries. The online portal has also added support for seven new languages, with more planned in the future.
The programme fits into the wider “Skype for Social Good” initiative, which aims to use free video calling to make a “positive impact on society”.
Skype launched its education programme in March 2011, planning to create free classrooms connecting teachers and students from around the world.
At the heart of it is a dedicated website – education.skype.com – which can be used by teachers to post offers and projects. Once enough people register their interest, they can connect and start learning from the experts in real-time. Signing up and participating in the sessions is free, and available to anyone.
Today, Skype has announced additional partnerships with NASA, The National Museum of the Royal Navy and HMS Victory, British Council, Woodland Trust, VerbalizeIt, Action Aid, Education through Expedition and Choose2Matter. Every organisation will offer a unique set of classes, lectures and experiences.
“We believe everyone should have access to world class education,” Andrew Schmidt, manager of Skype for Social Good, told TechWeekEurope. He is convinced there are important advantages to face-to-face learning, as it offers levels of engagement that cannot be replicated by other online education tools.
Next year, Wood will lead a team of adventurers to the summit of Everest, and he plans to have real-time video sessions with at least ten schools during the journey, as well as make a Skype call directly from the top of the world’s highest mountain.
Since 2011, Skype In The Classroom has helped the explorer to talk with children directly from some of the most extreme places on the planet. Wood says that sharing first-hand experience helps to get them more involved in their studies, as well as remember the material better.
Connecting with children on a tough expedition can be a “very emotional experience”, said Wood. He also admitted that he really enjoys this part of his work, and believes it makes a difference. The explorer is also excited by other possibilities offered by video calling, and plans to put together a film about climate change made entirely from Skype interviews.
The Skype In The Classroom programme certainly doesn’t suffer from lack of ambition. For example, NASA’s Digital Learning Centre will offer students a chance to learn how to prepare a space vehicle for liftoff, help scientists and engineers to explore the basic principles of matter and design their own spacesuit mission patch.
Meanwhile, closer to home, the Royal Navy will use the platform to promote Britain’s maritime heritage. “The reach of the Royal Navy is global and there is a real interest in its history throughout the world. However, despite this interest, the geographical constraints mean that the vast majority of schools (even those in Great Britain) will never get a chance to actually visit us,” said Claire Jordan, learning officer for the National Museum of the Royal Navy and HMS Victory.
“To be able to bring our collections to more people and give the opportunity to learn more about the Museum via Skype is great,” she added.
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